Ramblings

September 2013


Eyton Court

Monday – Leominster-Eyton – Across the Grange and down Priory to the iron bridge over the Kenwater. The path runs alongside the river and turns down to Mill Lane. Across Mill Lane and a path passes between the large yard of Dales, steel erectors, and the railway. The path cross the River Lugg where it was straightened in 1962. I skirt around fields of dry oilseed rape. Maple-leaved Goosefoot stands high on the field edges, large heads of green seeds which coat Maddy (it is a horrendous job combing hundreds of them out of her coat, something she loathes). As usual around here the footpaths are either obscure or ploughed up altogether. This is the Herefordshire Trail and again it is in poor condition. After forcing my way up the edge of a field of barley I reach a track. A deep drainage ditch runs alongside. Over the ditch a Blackthorn bush is loaded with ripe sloes, a Hawthorn heavy with haws and an Oak has a fine crop of acorns. The track enters The Broad, a small hamlet named after the large farm house on the west side of the road. Up Croft Lane. The route to Eyton, again the Herefordshire Trail is blocked by a wall of maize so I follow the road. Eyton Hall is a substantial farm, the house from the 18th century with an early 19th century wing. The place was owned by the Dale family mentioned above in relation to the steel site. They had an extensive nursery business here. The land to the north looks like it was laid out as a park leading to orchards. The Church of All Saints dates from the 12th century, was extended in the 14th century, refitted in the late 15th century and extensively restored in 1853. There is a fine oak rood screen with a panelled loft covering. The font is mediaeval but has been re-carved. Down the road is Eyton Court, a late 15th or early 16th century house with a 19th century extension. The Hakluyt family have been associated with Eyton Court. Opposite is The Marsh, a fine house from the 14th century. I take the Leominster road past Eyton Common. The pond appears to have dried up, just a few reeds and a lonely willow sapling. The road passes Coxall, a 17th century house, remodelled in the late 18th century. Over Cheese Bridge and off down a track at Croward’s Mill. Just before the River Lugg is a plum tree heavily weighed down with fruit. The track ends at a lane which was the old Leominster to Kington railway line. This leads back towards North Road. A footpath leads to the sports centre and into Bridge Street.

Bridge

Tuesday – Montford Bridge – Camping beside the River Severn to the west of Shrewsbury, not far from where Peter had his barbel fishing patch. The new tent is erected relatively easily. The sun comes and goes as clouds drift across the sky. A short walk proceeds along the river bank separated from the water by willows and oaks. A twittering flock of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits move through the trees, feasting on the many caterpillars and insects. Common Buzzards mew high overhead. A rather annoying police helicopter keeps passing, is it impossible to fit some sort of silencer to these machines? A tractor is hauling a complex looking piece of machinery across the adjoining field. It appears to be a combination disc harrow, fertiliser and rake. The field in the far aside of the river has shiny black plastic-wrapped bales scattered across it. Numerous Swallows and House Martins feed over the stubble. They get excited by a passing Kestrel, which perches on writes at the end of the campsite, its legs are bright yellow in contrast to the muted, warm brown plumage. It watches the ground beneath intently. We head to the pub, crossing the river by a bridge, the first designed by Thomas Telford and built by John Carline Jr and John Tilley between 1790 and 1792. It has three masonry elliptical arch spans, two of 55 feet, and the central one of 58 feet. The red sandstone came from Nesscliffe Hill, some four miles away. The bridge once carried the A5, the road from London to Holyhead, but that has been diverted to Shrewsbury by-pass. Arthur Mee states that it was here that David, the last prince of Wales was handed over to Edward I who had him hung, drawn and quartered, the first person known to have suffered this fate. However, there is little support for Mee’s version.

Wednesday – Montford – A thick mist and a cool air declare autumn is in its way. Out of the campsite and past the octagonal cottage that was the toll-house on the Holyhead Road, dating from the late 18th century. Spiders’ webs in the hedge and tall plants in a garden are white with dew. Up the Montford road and over a bridge high above the A5 which is already busy with traffic. The road reaches the village of Montford. A drive leads off to a Georgian house just before the church. The church of St Chad is a sturdy building in red sandstone blocks, unfortunately locked. It was restored in 1884. We are still in the Marches here evidenced by the goodly number of Welsh names on the gravestones. The lane bends and heads down past Toms Cottage to the village pond, which looks dry under the thick layer of grass. The lane returns again and process up a rise part a well proportioned house, Montford House, in red brick with a red sandstone porch. Down a short lane in the opposite direction from the church is Montford Farm. The farmhouse is a large, rambling affair from the early 19th century. Again red sandstone has been used extensively in buildings. A Robin sings wistfully from a wire and House Sparrows chirp.

Shrewsbury – The town of Shrewsbury lies on the River Severn. It is the county town of Shropshire and retains its mediaeval layout. It was founded around 800CE and may have been the capital of the Kingdom of Powys, called Pengwern, meaning Alder Hill. The Anglo-Saxons called the place Scrobbesburh, which may have come from Scrobb’s Burgh, the Scrobb being the father of Richard Scrobb of Richard’s Castle, a Norman who was in England before the Conquest. Shrewsbury grew on the wool trade, well placed on both the River Severn and Watling Street. Roger de Montgomery received the town from William after the Conquest and built a castle in 1074 and abbey in 1084. We park in Frankwell and wander to the Welsh Bridge, built over the river in 1795 by Tilley and Carline, mentioned above. It replaced an earlier bridge, the footings of which were found when the footings were dug for the Theatre Severn showing that the Sculptureriver was much wider in past times. On the town side of the river is a large sculpture representing the natural world relating to Shrewsbury’s most famous citizen, Charles Darwin. We turn up the rather splendidly named Mardol, which may mean the mard wall, or boundary wall, or possibly the Devil’s End. Mardol joins the High Street. We are much taken by the town’s shopping centre, a good combination of chain stores with many independents, all cheek by jowl in mediaeval streets. We head down to the castle but as dogs are not welcome we do not tarry. Nearby is the library with a monumental statue of Darwin outside. A nearby shop carries a plaque declaring it to be the site where Mr Pailin made his first Shrewsbury Cakes in 1760. Thomas Ingoldsby’s poem of 1840 declares: Oh, Pailin! Prince of cake-compounders! the mouth liquefies at thy very name.

Back towards the town centre and the Church of St Mary the Virgin. There has been a church here since at least the days of King Edgar who reigned from 957 to 975, if not earlier. The Saxon church was replaced around 1150 with additions around 1190-1210, 1360 and 1477. Inside one is immediately struck by the extensive glass of the most exquisite quality. Much of it was installed by the Revd William Rowland who purchased it from the continent, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. (We had seen glass obtained by Revd Rowland at Lichfield Cathedral.) English glass is more than adequately represented by the main east window, the Jesse Window, which Market Hallcame from St Chad’s church nearby which collapsed in 1788. It depicts the lineage of Jesus from Jesse, father of David. The Trinity chapel contains Victorian glass. The nave roof dates from the late 15th century and there is a Green Man in the south transept, although it is too dark to see it properly. Not far away, past Draper’s Hall built 1576-1580 to the church of St Alkmund. Alkmund was the son of the deposed king of Northumbria. He was killed in 800 and declared a saint (apparently on the grounds that he had been a royal prince killed in battle) in 803. The church was founded by Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred in 912. It was made a collegiate church by King Edgar in 959. However, Lilleshall Abbey took precedence after the Conquest and St Alkmund’s continued as a parish church. The Saxon church was replaced in the late 12th century. This church was demolished in 1794 as it was declared unsound, although it was stated that Far from exhibiting decay, the ancient walls proved unusually firm and sound and it was not without great difficulty they were rent asunder and thrown down. The new church is a fine example of Gothic Revival. It is light and white with a large eastern window painted with an image of the Assumption of the Virgin, a notable survival of the work of Francis Eginton, famed in his time as an enamel painter on glass. By the entrance are a number of plaques recording peals of the bells. We wander down streets until we reach the English Bridge, a 1926 rebuilding of John Gwynn’s 1774 bridge, known as the Stone Bridge. We follow the river then walk high above on the town walls. Below are small allotments and further over, bowling greens. Past the Roman Catholic cathedral and the backs of some large houses with fine windows. Along a typical Georgian crescent, built in 1793 and up Belmont, past the Roman Catholic school and the small remains of St Chad’s church, to the old Market Hall in The Square. The Market Hall was built in 1596 and is now imaginatively used as an arts venue. There are statues of monkeys, apparently reading, around the entrances. A statue of a man, thought to be the Duke of York, is over the main entrance having been moved there, on the orders of the mayor, from the Welsh Bridge in 1771.

Castle

Thursday – Shrawardine – We leave Montford Bridge and pay a quick visit to this village beyond Montford. The church is, of course, locked so we go to the remains of the castle. These are just a couple of pieces of wall upon a high motte. A castle was mentioned here in 1165 (although an earlier reference has been made either to this site or another a short distance away at Little Shrawardine). This site, now under King John, was destroyed by Llewelyn ap Iorwerth in 1215 and rebuilt by the Sheriff of Salop in 1220. In 1244 the castle was handed to John Fitz Alan who rebuilt it and renamed it Castle Isabel in honour of his wife, Isabel de Abinbi. The Bromley’s held it from 1583 but it was taken and destroyed by Parliamentary forces in June 1645.

Friday – Bodenham Lake – Heavy overnight rain extending into this morning has broken the long dry period. There is a coolness about the air. The water level in the lake has fallen and it almost glows green with blue-green algae. Mist rolls along the surface from the island. There are few birds around. A couple of Mute Swans glide serenely, a few Cormorants are in the trees with another on the pontoon and a Moorhen squawks from the reed bed. A Robin sings fitfully and a Common Buzzard mews. A Great Crested Grebe appears by the island, a few Mallard and a couple of Teal have also drifted into view. A noisy gaggle of Canada Geese wing in. Several more flights follow. The scrape was until recently bare gravel but now is covered by a dense growth of greenery. The rain returns. Some apples are now ripe in the orchard.

Tuesday – Cricklade – It has been a busy few days. On Sunday we went to Brighton to see our granddaughter, Kitty and her parents. Then up to Surrey where I left Kay dog sitting and headed back to Herefordshire on Monday morning. Monday night was the Civic Society meeting which was attended by the new Conservation Officer from the Council. She informed us that the Council have cut the numbers of Conservation Officers from three to just her! This does not bode well for protecting River Thamesour local heritage. This morning Maddy and I head back to Surrey. We have passed a sign saying Cricklade – A Saxon Town many times so I decide a quick visit is in order. The name comes from the Old English, crūc meaning a hill, a reference it is thought to nearby Horsey Down and gelād meaning a passage, the whole being the passage or crossing (over the Thames) near the hill. The crossing is where the Roman Ermine Street crossed the river. The town was founded in the 9th century and fortified by King Alfred to provide a base to drive back the Vikings who were at Cirencester. Nothing remains of the walls built by the Saxons, although the square layout remains. The main street called of course, High Street, is full of buildings in the lovely warm yellow Cotswold stone. There is also a good Church Towerrange of local shops. Just beyond the High Street is a small bridge crossing a stream. Without a notice and a stone plaque I would never have guessed this is the River Thames, England’s second longest river and a mighty thoroughfare through the capital. The river has its source only eight miles to the west. Further down the road is Cricklade Priory, which was founded by Warin, one of Henry III’s chaplains, prior to 1231 as guest-house for the use of poor wayfarers. Like most mediaeval hospitals it was dedicated to St John the Baptist, but there is no evidence of any connection with the Knights Hospitallers. In 1415, Robert Hallam, Bishop of Salisbury revised the Statutes and the hospital, with its chapel and buildings, was to be devoted to the needs of poor priests who were unable, through age or infirmity, to carry out their functions. On 16th January 1550 on dissolution, the whole property, with the exception of the bells and the lead from the roof, was sold to William Fountayne and Richard Mayne. In the late 18th century the building served as a poor house of St Mary’s parish.

At the other end of the High Street is the church of St Sampson. This Sampson was a 6th century Welshman who became Bishop of Dol, in Brittany. Some of his remains were brought to England in the 10th century by King Athelstan. One of these relics resided in the church here until the Reformation. There was a Saxon church on this site and although the date of its founding is unknown a stone church was first mentioned as existing around 973. The church was in the possession of Westminster Abbey, who received the income, and it is probable that the Abbey rebuilt the church around 1080. There was a major reconstruction in the late 12th century and the side aisles were added in the mid-13th century. The chancel was remodelled between 1350 and 1370 and is out of alignment with the nave. It was restored in 1864. Inside, eyes are drawn to the crossing where the tower, built by Robert Dudley, Earl of Northumberland, in 1553, rises some 65 feet shedding light into the building. Long ropes (allegedly the longest bell-ropes in the country) emerge from a garter hole in the floor of the belfry which is network of lierne vaulting ribs. Numerous heraldic emblems adorn the walls. On the south side of the chancel is the Lady or Hungerford Chapel, built by Sir Edmund Hungerford, who died in 1484. Here a light, the Aumbrey Light is kept ever alight to show that the Reserved Sacrament is kept nearby in the Aumbrey, a niche in the wall covered by a finely worked brass door. Outside, the tower has a slightly strange look with octagonal turrets on each corner rising above the battlements. The 14th century town cross stands in the churchyard having been moved here in 1818. Nearby is the Jenner Hall, built as a school in 1652 using a bequest from Robert Jenner Goldsmith, the MP for Cricklade who had died the previous year.

Ruins

Wednesday – Virginia Water – We walk around this popular Surrey landmark. The lake lies in Windsor Great Park and was created by damming a stream, Virginia Brook, in 1753 by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Until the great reservoirs were created, this was the largest man-made body of water in Britain. It was once a place of great pageantry with a Chinese junk and fishing temples, the most famous built in 1825 by Sir Jeffry Wyatville, later decorated in the Chinese style by Frederick Crace and was a favourite retreat of George IV. It was replaced by a Swiss chalet in 1867 which itself was demolished in 1936. As recorded above, Virginia Water is popular – very popular. Dog walkers and joggers abound, hundreds of them. Fortunately Maddy just concentrates on her ball and we keep Freddy, the westie, on a lead. We walk down through the woods from Blacknest. There are a lot of Sweet Chestnuts among the great variety of species. I check one of the painfully prickly conkers but the nuts are a long way from ripe. Along the side of the lake. There is little on the water, a few Great Crested Grebes and a couple of Tufted Duck. We come to the Leptis Magna ruins, an extraordinary collection of Roman ruins mainly taken from Leptis Magna, a city on the shore of the Mediterranean near Tripoli in Libya. Colonel Hamner Warrington, Consul General in Tripoli sent the stones in 1816 as a present for the Prince Regent. They remained in the British Museum until 1826 when they were moved and erected here in Windsor Great Park. Wyattville arranged the stones to form a Roman Temple as part of the picturesque movement design of Virginia Water. We pass an 18th century ornamental cascade, presently suffering from the lack of water flow and a rather scummy affair. On round to the main, modern pavilion and car park, then we retrace our steps.

Memorial

Thursday – Brookwood Cemetery – This cemetery near Woking in Surrey was established by the London Necropolis Company in 1849 as the cemeteries in London ran out of space. It was at the time the largest cemetery in the world. It opened to the public in 1854. Trains from a special station, the London Necropolis Station, which stood next to Waterloo Station brought bodies right into the cemetery on a branch from the South Western Main Line. The original London Necropolis station was relocated in 1902, but its successor was demolished after suffering bomb damage during World War II. There were two stations in the cemetery itself, North for non-conformists and South for Anglicans. We miss the directions, if there were any, to the cemetery and end up in the Military Cemetery opened in 1917. It is a quite extraordinary place. Apart from the rows and rows of identical white headstones, crosses and occasional Star of David, there are magnificent great memorials in white marble dedicated to the each of the Commonwealth and Allied countries fallen, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Canada and so on. One of the largest is the American Military Cemetery. A beautiful circular memorial, the Brookwood Memorial, commemorates 3500 who have no known graves. It is raining gently and incredibly peaceful. We enter the civilian cemetery. There are many Victorian monuments and by the station is a huge Islamic cemetery. Ramadan Güney bought the cemetery in 1985, the purchase evolving from his role as Chairman of the UK Turkish Islamic Trust, which wanted suitable burial facilities for its members.

Sunday – Leominster – It is beginning to really feel like autumn now. A major depression is moving in from the Atlantic threatening high winds and rain. The sky has various bands of cloud, that in the east glowing orange as the sun rises and later in the west a fat rainbow. A Chiffchaff still calls in the churchyard. The weather forecast has persuaded the majority of traders at the Sunday Market to stay in bed. A few huddle in the car saleroom hall and some brave souls risk the open air, but there are few buyers. Another rainbow arcs over the western sky. At home I pick some plums and figs. The Herefordshire Russet apples are nearly ready. A few more Runner beans are ready but the French beans are now finished although many are hanging from the plants hopefully drying. The purple-sprouting broccoli has been shredded by Cabbage and Small White butterfly caterpillars, but hopefully some will recover. In the end, the heavy rain does not arrive, although the wind is stronger and the pressure fell throughout the afternoon.

Monday – Croft – A succession of rain clouds are driven by blustery winds. It is much cooler now. The Fish Pool Valley remains verdant. Few birds are calling now, the occasional squeak from a Blue Tit, an insistent chwitt-chwitt of a Nuthatch and cooing Wood Pigeons. The rain comes and goes whilst the canopy is lit with sunlight. The floor of the Beech woods have a scattering of fungi of the Russula family. Up between Lyngham Vallet and Bircher Common. House Martins sweep over the conifers. A pair of Common Buzzards circle over the edge of Leinthall Common. A distant croaking is emitted by a passing Raven. Below the fields are a patchwork of green pastures and pale brown stubble. The wind is fiercer up here. On Croft Ambrey, Ash and Hornbeams are laden with keys, their seeds. The Hawthorns here vary considerably, some are covered in gleaming scarlet Haws, others are devoid of fruit. Wigmore castle stares silently across the plain as it has done for centuries past. The hills are fairly clear but grey under the ever changing sky. Down the Spanish Chestnut field. Only one tiny button of a Field Mushroom and a Puffball is found, certainly not enough to bother cooking. Calves in the field above the castle watch us as we return to the car park.

Wednesday – Bodenham Lake – The lake still has a grey-green smear of algae across its surface. A couple of Grey Herons chase. A couple of Great Crested Grebes, a few Mallard, Canada Geese, Mute Swans with a couple of cygnets and a fair number of Coot are on the water. A Moorhen searches the mud of the scrape. A Robin sings in the distance. Three Cormorants fly in to join sixteen sitting in the trees on the island. A pair of mewing Common Buzzards circle the trees. A pair of Blackbirds shoot out of the copse by the lake and dash back in again. A Wood Pigeon flies down to the bank in front of the hide. Another three cygnets have appeared from somewhere. The recent bad weather seems to have persuaded all the summer visitors their time is past, there is not a single hirundine in the sky nor any peep of a warbler. Rasping Jays pass by. The swans arrive on the scrape. Swans on land move in such an ungainly fashion compared to their grace on the water. Outside the hide a toadstool, Bonnet Mycena, has grown abundantly on a large pile of wood chippings remaining from when the copse was thinned. They have pretty much entirely auto-digested leaving only a stem and blackened framework like a fabric-less umbrella. Apples are falling in the orchard and I gather a bagful.

Friday – Long Mynd – Up the Cardingmill valley following the stream that now seems so small yet once powered the industry in the valley. The sky is cloudy but some blue is showing. The hills are slowly turning brown. Up Mott’s Road, the Jack Mytton path. High above a Sparrowhawk is chasing a small bird, dashing this way and that before disappearing over the hillside. Here the lower reaches of the hills are dull purple and yellow, dying heather and Gorse, above dull green bracken and white rocky outcrops. Stubby Hawthorns and vermilion berried Rowans are dotted around. A sharp chkk comes from the bracken then a pair of Stonechats chase each other across the Ruinhillside. The path meets The Portway, a mediaeval trackway and now part of the Shropshire Way Long Distance Path. To the west is Stiperstones, to the north The Wrekin. A quick diversion over Duckley Nap to a barrow called Robin Hoods Butts. Then on to the Shropshire Way westwards across the end of High Park Hollow. A Common Buzzard flies into the woods, although I think I glimpse a white tail, diagnostic of a Rough-legged Buzzard, but it is all too brief a view to make any claim. A Raven croaks overhead. Meadow Pipits squeak and Swallows pass by, all heading south. The track passes a box from a lorry, Sharpe and Kellet Ltd, Stationary Suppliers, who were a Liverpool company set up in 1946 but dissolved in the mid-1990s. There are some late lambs in the field. These sheep have black marking around the muzzle and eyes, Derbyshire Gritstone breed? Bee hives are at the edge of the field where there is a large patch of Rosebay Willowherbs. Opposite is a pond at the top of Hawkham Hollow. It is clouding over. The track continues over Betchcott Hills, past the triangulation point and a strange mini mobile telephone mast; it seems that it is high enough here that a tall mast is not required so instead this one is just a couple of feet high. A ruined shed stands at Top Darnford, although it may have been a shepherd’s cottage a century ago. Flocks of finches, Yellowhammers and Linnets flit around the shrubbery. Christmas Tree Farm lies down the hill a short way.

The Portway continues north-westwards but the Shropshire Way turns south-west into the Golden Valley. The path descends and crosses Darnford Brook. Old SchoolIt continues down the valley above Lower Darnford farm. Large, old Beech trees stand near the path, whilst younger Oaks, Willows and Birches line the brook. On through bracken covered valley. Blue and Great Tits feed on a berry-laden Rowan. The tree is old with a number of breaks in the trunk and branches yet still produces an abundant harvest. The path passes beneath Ratlinghope Hill which is topped by a small hill-fort then through Rookery Copse above Ratlinghope. On through Garden Coppice, crossing a garden of ornamental trees and then under Drive Coppice, a steep hillside of conifers leading down to the brook. It emerges onto the road back to Church Stretton. A few hundred yards down this road is the hamlet of Bridges. The Youth Hostel is houses in a fine Victorian Gothic former school with a clock tower having a fresco of ceramic blue and yellow tiles. Down near where the brook passes under the road to Wentnor is a large public house, The Bridges. I show great strength of mind by not stopping and returning instead to Ratlinghope. The village appears in Domesday as Rotelingehope, meaning the valley of the children of Rotel, a Saxon personal name. It was, post-Conquest, held by Robert Fitz Corbet Manor Houseunder Earl Roger Mortimer. Around the early 13th century, Walter Corbet founded a small cell or priory of Augustinian Canons of St Victor, attached to Wigmore.

The story is told locally how on 29th January 1865, the Rector of Woolstaston, the Reverend Edmund Donald Carr, was walking from Ratlinghope in order to attempt a second Sunday evening service at another church when he was caught in a blizzard, lost for 22 hours, snow-blinded and almost dead. He emerged in the Cardingmill Mill having crossed Long Mynd on a wild night. In 1906, the last known sin-eater in England was buried here. Ratlinghope Manor is a white painted building consisting of a long, barn-like construction from around 1600 with a house attached to the end dating from 1761. A road heads up towards Long Mynd. Behind, Castle Ring, a larger hill-fort can be seen behind Ratlinghope Hill. Harebells are still flowering on the verge. This lane is lined with venerable Beeches. One is being attacked by a bracket fungus, Multi-zoned Polypore, Coriolus versicolor. The road passes Belmore Ring, a small copse appearing to be surrounded by a low earthen bank. Marked on the OS map as an historic site but about which I can find nothing. A Common Buzzard flies along the valley of Bilbatch Brook. A car passes slowly with a dog running alongside, rather missing the point of dog walking! Over Long Mynd at Shooting Box and off down the Burway. I call Maddy to heel as there is a car approaching. I then notice she has dropped her ball and can see an orange object merrily running away down the road about a hundred yards away. After the vehicle passes we set off down the road but the ball has disappeared into the distance. We travel on a few more hundred yards when Maddy suddenly dashes to the roadside and stick her nose down an overgrown ditch and emerges with her ball. How on earth she scented it is beyond me! Below is a reservoir which feeds a stream running down New Pool Hollow to join the stream down Cardingmill Valley. On down the Burway, past the Devil’s Mouth until the path that drops down into Cardingmill Valley. It is much busier now than when we arrived.

Sunday – Leominster – Off down to the market. A Dipper is walking through the water below the footbridge over the River Lugg. A Grey Wagtail bobs as its name suggests on a spit of gravel. The river level is now very low. The weather is mild, shown by the reasonable number of stalls, especially compared to last week which was wet. I buy a large tray of pansies for Kay but there is little else of interest.

Malvern – Off to a Flea market on the West of England Showground in Malvern. There are hundreds of stall but also a vast amount of stuff which is of little interest to us. Of course, there are a few dealers with some quality stock but beautiful glass by Lalique and early Moorcroft is way out of our price range. There are plenty of quirky items too. What exactly one would do with a four foot high boot in sparkly silver is beyond my imagination and does anyone really want a seriously broken Chinese charger, no matter how nice it was in one piece? A gnu’s head? Or piles of boxes claiming once to have contained sardines, Brighton rock or French wines, all fake but trendy.

Poached Egg Fungus

Monday – Croft – A dull, grey morning. A Great Tit cycles his sing and others squeak. The leaves are turning now with much yellow the tree tops. A Carrion Crow caws. The first pond opposite the end of the drive in the Fishpool Valley is still grey-green and sickly looking, but the next by the old pumping station is clear and a fish jumps as I pass. The path up through open woodland below Bircher Common is thick with deer prints. A Robin sings. It is very humid. Nuthatches are calling from either side of the valley. Jays chatter then slip away. A coal black Dor Beetle and an iridescent green beetle, Harpalus affinis, cross the path. Up to Croft Ambrey and the Ash tree branch seat. Its arrhythmic rocking is somewhat weird, normally one is used to a regular rhythm but the wind makes this branch move unpredictably. Rumbling and clanking comes from the quarry otherwise just a crow disturbs the sound of rustling leaves. Down the Spanish Chestnut field where there are now enough Field Mushrooms to be worth gathering. A trunk lying on the ground in the patch of woodland between the fields has a fine display of glistening white fungi, Oudemansiella mucida, which goes by several names including, Slimy Beech Cap, Porcelain Fungus and Poached Egg Fungus. It is apparently edible after the slimy gluten is washed off and it must be cooked; I do not bother with it!

Wednesday – Bodenham Lakes – Kay and I pay a quick visit and head down the track to the yacht pound. Bright red hips adorn the hedges, a darker red haws hang low. The blackberries are almost finished now. Just a few late Ragwort and Dark Mullein are still in flower. A few apples in the cider orchard are beginning to fall. More in the dessert apple orchard are ready. We eat a couple of The Queen and get some little red pears that are very sweet.

Queenswood Arboretum – Very few Acers have changed colour yet. Indeed, it does not look like autumn yet in much of the arboretum although a few trees here and there are turning yellow and gold. It is dull and misty and nothing can be seen over the trees from the look-out. The wooden carvings of animals are beginning to weather which adds to their charm.

Sunday – Leominster – A horned moon gleams brightly through tesserae of cloud. Twelve Blackbirds search for grubs on the grass in front of Norman West Door of the Minster Church. A French market is taking place in Broad Street. They get smaller every year, just a handful of stalls now, so different from dozens of stalls lining the street in Saltaire some years ago. Back home I clear away the second sowing of peas which came to very little. Kay spots an Angle Shades moth, Plogophora meticulosa, in the pea straw but it is so well camouflaged that it takes me some some time to see it. There are numerous apples now, they will need picking for storage soon. The poor Conference pear is bending lower and lower with the weight of fruit. We cannot store pears easily so we need to work out how to stop large amounts going to waste. Tomatoes, peppers and courgettes keep coming, somewhat overwhelmed with the latter. The leeks are weeded but they are still a bit small. Something has been chomping the pak choi which is annoying.

Spotted Tough-shank

Monday – Mortimer Forest – Dull grey clouds hang over the forest. A Jay squawks and Wood Pigeons coo. A very few Foxgloves and Herb Robert are the final flowers of summer to be seen. Up to the Iron Age enclosure where a Willow Tit buzzes. It is quiet along the Sunnydingle track, just the occasional mewing Common Buzzard. Up the track to High Vinnalls. It is the season for fungi and they are everywhere: Parasol Mushroom, Lepiota procera, one of the Russulas, Spotted Tough-shank, Collybia maculata and Common Puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum to name a few and a good number I cannot name. The views are misty, the hills dark in the distance. A breeze blows across the hilltop but it is still relatively warm and humid. Grasses are turning pale brown and the tops of the bracken is brown. Yellow leaves dot the Silver Birches. Tall, fluffy stems of Rosebay Willowherb and blackening husks of Foxgloves rise above the bracken. Down past Hanway Common where a Great Spotted Woodpecker chips. Ravens bark in the conifers towards the car park.